‘He turned round and that was it.’ Care worker recalls last moments of boy who drowned at Bawsey Pits
A support worker has told a jury how a teenage boy in his care disappeared from view before drowning at a West Norfolk beauty spot.
Umar Balogun, 16, died in July 2013 after visiting Bawsey Pits with another boy and two staff from the Cambridgeshire care home where he was staying.
The two workers, Vanda Cawley and Kevin Roweth, have both pleaded not guilty to charges of failing to take reasonable care of his safety.
Giving evidence at Lynn Crown Court yesterday, Roweth, 28, formerly of Edinburgh Drive, Wisbech, told the jury the boys had been up to their waists in water when the incident happened, but maintained they had not been swimming.
He said they had appeared to be “happy” playing in the water before Umar disappeared.
He said: “He (Umar) just turned round and that was it. There was no sign of struggle, no bubbles, nothing. That was it. He was gone.”
He added: “It’s on my mind constantly. It’s something I have to deal with on a day to day basis and it’s horrible.”
Roweth, who had only begun his role around three weeks before the incident, told the court he went into the water himself to look for Umar.
He said he went further out than either of the boys had done, to a point where he actually had to swim and denied claims made by the surviving boy earlier in the trial that he and Umar had been swimming before Umar went missing.
Earlier, Roweth said he had visited Bawsey regularly as a child and went back there the day before the tragedy, after colleagues requested ideas for activities the residents could be taken to, which would not cost money.
But he insisted that, when he proposed the site as a place to visit on the day of Umar’s death, he did so for walking, not swimming.
During questioning by his barrister, Mark McDonald, Roweth admitted that he had seen a sign warning visitors not to swim before the boys entered the water.
But, when asked why they had been able to do so, he said many other visitors, including families with young children were already in there.
He said: “It didn’t present a danger.”
However, Quentin Hunt, prosecuting, said Roweth and Cawley, 50, of Hazel Croft, Werrington, Peterborough, had “no plan” for keeping the boys safe when they arrived at the site.
He suggested that Roweth had relied on other people being in the water as a basis for whether Umar and the other resident should be in there or not.
Asked, under cross-examination, whether he thought that was reasonable, Roweth replied: “In hindsight, no.”
He also accepted that he was under a greater burden of responsibility than other visitors to the site.
But the two men clashed over the issue of Roweth’s training and his understanding of risk assessments relating to residents.
Roweth insisted he had not understood large parts of the induction material given to him when he started the job, had only received limited guidance from managers and did not know what a risk assessment was.
But Mr Hunt said there was no record of him raising concerns and that he had admitted knowing where Umar’s risk assessment was when he was interviewed by police.
He said: “I would suggest you did see them and had no problem comprehending them.”
The court was also told that, while both defendants were interviewed by police, Roweth had declined to attend a voluntary interview with the Health and Safety Executive. Cawley did attend a similar interview.
The trial continues.